One of the most frequent questions that we are asked on leaving high school is – “where do you find yourself in 5 to 10 years?”

What changes would you have made in your life?

Would you be leaving in your dream house, get a Ph.D, or still ride the same car that was bought for you when you were 16?

The truth is that for every individual, there would be only three thing possibilities of how your life would turn out to be in the nearest future.

  • Things would still be the same.
  • It would have gotten better.
  • Or it would be worse.

Getting any of the three options is all up to you, so you have to determine which pot you would be drinking from in a few years. You could either be living the good life or …….

A good analogy to describe option #1 and #3 choosers was given by David Carpenter as having the Alice effect derived from the bestselling novel by Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland.

How to set long term goals
Source: Scott Soeder

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Do you know what differentiates the option #2 choosers to those of #1 and #3, they have a destination they plan to reach? If you chose a path for your long term goals without having a destination in sights, you are wasting your time!

The best way to achieve the second option is to set long term goals to help you get to where you want to go. 

What is the definition of long term goals?

According to the business dictionary it is defined as, “A strategic target that is projected to require significantly more time for completion that other business goals.”

Long term goals consists of the plans that you make for the future, these plans usually take up to 1 year to come into fruition. They come into fruition as an individual completes each of the various stage in their lives.

Individuals usually set long term goals to determine how their lives would be in next 10 to 20 years. Long term goals usually entails family, your career, the kind of lifestyle you want and even retirement goals.

Examples of long term goals

Difference between short term and long term goals
Source: Max Credit

Long term goals can be further sub-divided into two categories, they can either be lifetime goals or Capstone goals.

Lifetime goals and capstone goals

What are Lifetime goals?

As the name implies, these are the goals that you have set to accomplish over the course of your lifetime. These goals are the types that are normally fulfilled much later in life, around 10 – 15 years (or more) from their start date.

A good example of lifetime goals include getting a PhD, buying a house, becoming a professional athlete. Lifetime goals are different for every individual depending on their ages.

Lifetime goals would fall into any of the following categories:

  • Family
  • Education
  • Career
  • Financial
  • And can be even pleasure.

I asked a friend what his lifetime goals were  and he said, “I want to be a professional athlete, marry a European model, buy a mansion, become a billionaire and have two lovely kids.” Those are some goals right?

Lifetime goals first start out as general goals but they become more specific as you begin to work towards it.

My friend’s original goal of “becoming a professional athlete” becomes “playing professional soccer for the English Premier League” which later develops into “becoming the greatest football coach ever”. As the year goes by, the goals you made 5 years ago become more specific and defined.

In getting to your destination, your lifetime goals are very important. One big problem is that these goals are usually accomplished very far in the future and procrastination helps in killing these dreams.

Tip: You may want to read on How to End the Procrastination habit in 10 Super Easy Steps

As a result of procrastination and other distractions, you have to remain focused and have a positive attitude to be able to achieve these goals.

Another goal that was not mentioned under the long term goals but assists it are enabling goals.

Enabling goals

The reason I did not add enabling goals to the long term goals is because they are distinctive examples of short term goals – we would discuss short term goals in another article. Enabling goals are created to assist us in accomplishing our long term goals.

The peak performance center consider them as “objectives” of long term goals.

You need commitment which is long term and a commitment to leadership, because that’s the only way to build excellence.” – Azim Premji

What are Capstone goals?

How to set long term goals - capstone goals

Capstone goals are essential to you achieving your lifetime goals.

They are key goals that you need to be achieved before you can reach your lifetime goals. They are achieved most times within a short time.

As usual I would my friend as a case study. His Lifetime goal of becoming professional athlete would have Capstone goals which would be going to college, joining a sports academy or having a sports scholarship.

A lifetime goal of seeing all the sights in the world would have a Capstone goal of earning sufficient amount of money to actualize this dream.

Why are setting long term goals important?

Setting long term goals are a great motivator for self-improvement. (Read on: 15 Useful Everyday Habits: An Explosive Guide on Self Improvement). They help keep us focused and gives us objectives that give our existence meaning.

Although things doesn’t usually go as planned, it doesn’t reduce the importance of setting long term goals and working towards achieving them. Without having long term goals in place, you would just live your life aimlessly.

Note that it is not always about setting long term goals! If you have made your goals and do not take any actionable step to realize them, then you have wasted your time in the first place.

Luck won’t help you in achieving your goals if you don’t take concrete steps in achieving them.

What differentiates the 1% of the population that are successful and achieving their dreams from the others that do not?

They understand the power that comes from setting long term goals, how to divide these long term goals into smaller short term goals to keep them more focused, productive, and motivated.

If you know where you want your career to be in 5 years, setting clearly defined goals and planning for the long term would help you determine the steps you need to take and set a timetable that would assist you in achieving those goals.

How to set long term goals

Following the mnemonic SMART is a powerful tool in achieving your goals. They are a lot variants to the mnemonic, but it usually stands for the following:

SMART goals settings
Source: Marzano

A good example of using the smart mnemonic is using the “goal of traveling around the world” as a case study.

Instead of just “traveling around the world” as a goal, you use the SMART goal would be “To travel to a city in 5 continents in the world before January 1, 2020”.

You set your goals by following this process:

  • First start by having “a clear picture of what you want to achieve. Ask yourself, “Where do I see myself in the next 10 years?” That way you can identify your goals and fix them into short and long term.
  • Next you break those goals into smaller parts that would be met to help you achieve your lifetime goals
  • Once you have the plan in place, you then start working on achieving those goals.

First Step: Set Lifetime Goals

Dream and goals hierarchy
Source: The Wealth Success Student

In the process of setting your long term goals, you have to determine what you want to achieve in your life time. ‘Lifetime’ might sound so serious, so you can see it as goals you want to achieve in the distant future.

When you set a lifetime goal, you have a general overview of what you want your life to look like and this assists you when you are making certain decisions for your life.

For you to have a general sense of the important areas in your life in that you can try to get your lifetime goals from, check out these categories:

  • Education – Is there any skill, degree or knowledge that you have to acquire before you can reach your long term goals?
  • Career – What level do you want to reach in whatever field or profession you are in? Do you want to be a branch manager, a CEO or even own your company?
  • Finances – As you climb up your professional ladder is there a particular salary you would like to earn? How does your finances affect some of your goals like traveling around the world or buying your dream car?
  • Public Service – Do you have a dream of making the world a better place? If you do, how do you plan on achieving this goal?
  • Athletic Goals – Are there some physical or athletic goals you want to achieve? Do you want to climb Mount Everest or do just want to be very healthy in your old age? What would you have to do to achieve this?
Athletes long term goals
  • Personality – Is your personality or attitude holding you back? Is the way you think affecting you? Is there a part of you that makes your feel unhappy? (If any of this is true, set a goal to find a solution to those faults).

I have given you the outline of some of the categories you can set your long term goals with. Reflect on each of them and break them into smaller significant goals that you can then focus on.

Second step: Break Lifetime Plan into Smaller Goals

You have set your lifetime goals, what next? If your lifetime goals would take you 20 years to accomplish, break them down into a five year plan of smaller goals that you would need to achieve before you achieve the end goal.

How to break long term goals into smaller goals
Source : Zachary Babcock

Further break the five year plan into a three-year plan, one-year plan, six-month plan and even 1 week plan progressively until you have reached your lifetime goal.

Next, you create a create a list of what you have you to do every day until you have achieved your lifetime goals.

When you first start out on your journey to achieving your goal, you start by improving yourself, gathering information, reading a lots of books on how you achieve them. This would help you in setting your goals realistically.

Most importantly, don’t go over your head when making your plans. Make sure they are not overly ambitious and fit into the way you want to live your life.

Third Step: Stay on the Right Course

It is very important to have a To-Do list in achieving your goals. You have to make sure you stay true to your goals. Review and update them on a daily basis.

To help you keep a regular schedule, you can use a computer based diary like Wunderlist and Onenote.

How to achieve your long term goals in 8 easy steps

The following tips would help you to set goals that are achievable:

1. Have priorities

It is advisable to commit to one long term goal at a time. Your long terms goals would require a lot of dedication, hard work, and commitment on your part. It would take a lot of your energy, so it is more conducive for you to concentrate in one long term goal at a time. Having multiple long term goals at a time might lead to you not ever fully completing them

Priority list for long term goals

One complete goal is better than having five goals that you never accomplish. This doesn’t mean that you would have only one lifetime or long term goals. Depending on your age, you would be able to accomplish several long term goals.

The key thing to remember is that you have to prioritize your goals according to the one that is most important at that time.

2. Break them into small achievable sub-goals

Your low-level goals should not be too large. When your goals are too large, it would seem that you are not making any progress in it. Break the larger goals into smaller sub-goals so that you can easily manage them. That way you can work on these smaller goals as you advance to the main goal.

4. Be detailed

Make sure the goals you set for yourself are detailed and precise. Put in dates, efforts spent, and time taken so that you can see how far you have gone and measure your achievement. When this is done, you would be able to determine how far you have gone, and when you have achieved them.

5. Have a timetable for both your sub-goals and main goal

It is important for you to set up date for your goals. That way you can determine your progress and stay focused toward achieving your long term goals.

First of all, set a timetable for the overall goals, then set a timetable for your sub-goals. When you have a timetable, you would know when adjustment is needed. You would know when you are lagging behind or if you need to slow down and take assessment of your progress.

For example you wanted to get a bachelor’s degree. You would have to finish your university education in 4 to 5 years depending on your course. Getting a bachelor’s degree is the overall goal. The sub-goals would be to apply to the University of your choice, write their entrance exams, attend lectures, study for exams and projects and so on… By accomplishing these smaller sub-goals, you would achieve the overall goal of getting a bachelor’s degree.

5. Practice self-discipline

Most of the time, when you set long term goals it would take several years of commitment before you would accomplish them. Without optimal self-discipline and focus, you would not be able to reach your goal. They are a couple of tips you can follow for you to improve your self-discipline.

Know your weaknesses – Every individual has areas where they are weakest. For most, it is an addiction to social media or the latest games on the play store.Know your weakness

It is very important for you to acknowledge those areas where you are weakest and start working on them. We often try to ignore these vulnerabilities, which usually comes back to haunt us in the long run.

Remove all distractions – The phrase, “out of sight, out of mind” might sound silly, but this is some of the most powerful advice you can ever follow. The simple act of removing all your distractions and temptation would help to improve your self-discipline.

Let say you want to become healthier, you throw away all your junk food. You want to become more productive, you block social media or hide your x-box. The lesser the things that serves as a temptation around you, the more productive you become.

Meditate – I can’t stress how important meditation is to your self-discipline. When you practice self-discipline, you become more focused. Yoga can be a generous avenue for practicing meditation.

Start first worry later

Start first – Don’t be worried about the completion of task when you haven’t even started it. The greatest hurdle would you face when you want to set long term goals is taking the first step. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It must have started by placing the first brick and onward.

6. Develop Habits to help you achieve your goal

Sometimes the life goals you choose might require a change in your lifestyle completely as most of these goals usually take many months to accomplish. Certain areas of your life would need restructuring before you can reach your goal.

Tips: 10 Tips for a Personalized Workplace for Maximum Productivity

7. Have goals that are realistic

Don’t set long term goals that are not achievable or are very difficult. Make sure you understand the obstacles that you could face on the way. Know the level of your skill – if you know they are not sufficient to help you meet them, improve yourself till you develop enough skill to reach your goal.

For example you want to build your own boat. You have to know the risk that this venture might have to your finances. You prepare for any obstacle by saving money that you can spare. That way if something came up and you are strap for cash, you would have your savings to fall back to.

8. Identify your obstacles

You should realize that when you have long-term goals, there would be several obstacles and hardships that you would stand in your way. The key is not to avoid these obstacles you may face, but to anticipate them before they occur – that way you can already have a system in place to overcome them when they happen.

Rock road obstacles

How to stay motivated for long term goals

1. Take breaks

When you set long term goals it might take a long time to fulfill, it is also important that you take breaks regularly. When your mind and body are not working at full capacity, it would be very difficult for you to reach your goal. For you to keep your energy up, it is important that you take some time to relax. When you start feeling worn out, find some time to relax – do any activity you enjoy, take a walk, or read.

2. Find fun in your goal

Find some fun activities that you can participate while you are also achieving your goal.

For example you want to live healthier, you can dofun activities like playing soccer, swimming, going on hikes. These fun activities would help to keep you healthy and also have fun while doing it.

3. Reward yourself

For every sub-goal that you accomplish, reward yourself. These little rewards would always give you a reason to another sub-goals. You would be more focused and motivated after every reward.

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